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It is hard to imagine that there was a time in the not too distant past when our traditional culture was neither profitable nor popular. Faced with indifference at best and outright hostility at worst followers of our native music, song and dance must often have despaired at what the future would hold for our traditional arts.

It is against this backdrop that Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was established in 1951. Among the aims of the fledgling organisation was the creation of a closer bond among all lovers of Irish Music. One of the principal ways of achieving this aim was the holding of Fleadhanna Ceoil - a gathering of musicians with a view to maintaining high musical standards through competition.

Mullingar played host to the first Fleadh in 1951. However, it is generally accepted that it was when the Fleadh came to Ennis some 5 years later that things began to take off. The Organising Committee under the stewardship of Seán Reid came up with an innovative and exciting new format for the presentation of traditional music, song and dance.

The Fleadh proved a tremendous hit with both artistes and audience alike. Not surprisingly, it generated huge media interest. Not only did it encourage existing musicians it also kindled the enthusiasm of a new generation who had no hang ups or inferiority complexes concerning our traditional culture. In 2005 over 220,000 people gathered in Letterkenny to participate and witness one of greatest celebrations of music song and dance in the world.

It is generally accepted that the 1956 Fleadh in Ennis played a pivotal rôle in the renaissance of traditional music. Now some fifty years later it is timely for us to bestow due and proper recognition on this central event. Fleadh Nua ‘06 will celebrate the characters and events that have garnered such a special place in the memory of traditional music lovers.
Domhnall Ó Loingsigh,


Fleadh (pronounced "flah") is the Irish word for "festival." There are all sorts of fleadhs in Ireland throughout the year, most of them centered on music and dance. At the Fleadh Nua, in Ennis, I kick off my musical mystery tour with a glorious 48-hour immersion. On my first afternoon in Ireland, I listen in on a crowded session (or seisiún an informal gathering of musicians) at the pub in my hotel. Then I meander through the narrow streets of the town center... where a stage is set up on the back of a small flatbed truck. [T]he music, by a series of groups and solo players and singers, is bright and joyful. A troupe of young step dancers in colorfully embroidered costumes arrives and performs in the percussive, straight-armed Irish style on the street in front of the stage….
Up and down the streets, the sound of accordions, flutes, and fiddles pours from the doorways of pubs. In the evenings there are also concerts and dances. I hear the fabled Clare fiddler Paddy Canny, nearly 80 now, in suit and tie but with a farmer's sturdy build, easing through jigs and reels he's been playing since he was a boy. I hear famous players and discover others whose names are new to me. And on my first night, I go to the céilí [which] is an Irish party with music and set dancing-- a bit like American square dancing, only more complex and usually faster-paced. [D]ozens of dancers, divided into sets of four couples each, swirl and step and swing through intricate patterns while accordionist P. J. Hernon's Swallow's Tail Céilí Band provides irresistible accompaniment...
It's a long walk from the dance hall back to my hotel. I get there well after midnight, only to find a session in progress in the lobby. And another one in the pub. I've been in Ireland less than 24 hours. I'm in heaven.”
From “The Reel-Thing - an Irish-music devotee gets to the roots of his obsession” by Michael Cain in “Travel and Leisure Magazine”


Outreach Programme
Fleadh Nua heads to Kilrush on 21st May as it pays tribute to the Musicians, Singers and Dancers of West Clare. Following the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in honour of these stalwarts, the informal part of the proceedings will commence with plenty of "ceol, caint agus comhluadar" in the local hostelries.
Concerts and Recitals
“A Terrible Beauty”- Ninety years after the Rising, our feature concert revisits the events of Easter 1916 incorporating the music, song, writing and reportage of the time. The line up includes Seán Ó Sé, Tadhg Maher, Edel Vaughan and the Turloughmore Céilí Band.
“Remembering the Fleadh down in Ennis” – The theme event promises to be a unique evening of music and memories as the characters of Robbie McMahon’s song are brought to life in in the august surroundings of Cois na hAbhna – the newly refurbished regional headquarters of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in County Clare. Cois na hAbhna is itself a tangible legacy of the 1956 and 1977 All Ireland Fleadhanna in Ennis and is a fitting venue for this tribute.

Young Musicians, Dancers and Singers have always been encouraged in their efforts by Comhaltas and the Aos Óg Concert at Fleadh Nua provides an ideal platform for the next generation to display their prowess. This year's Concert will take place at the Holy Family Hall on 26th May. The Producer's brief is straightforward but unenviable - form a concert line up drawn from the ranks of Ireland's finest underage performers and All Ireland Champions. A definite must see event!
"An Fidil Beo" adds an extra dimension to the programme of concerts at Fleadh Nua. It consists of an acoustic recital in a semi-formal setting by well known traditional artistes. Performers of the calibre of the Healy Brothers and Tim Collins have wowed audiences in recent years. We are fortunate to be able call upon on the production skills of noted musician, Vincent McMahon to ensure the continued success of the recital which this year will feature Joe Burke and Ann Conroy.

Following on the success of last year's collaboration with the Clare County Council Arts Office, a programme of lunch time concerts has been organised starting on 22nd May and continuing until 26th May. The Concerts start at 1.00 p.m. and will take place in the County Museum. Details of performers will be announced later.

Scoil Fleadh Nua
Scoil Fleadh Nua lends an Educational Aspect to the festival. A comprehensive series of Set Dancing Workshops has been organised so as to provide dancers with a chance to learn the Clare Sets and some of the more popular Céilí dances.

Drawing on some of the finest traditional music tutors in the country, co-ordinator Deirdre O’Brien Vaughan is assembling a series of masterclasses in some of the more popular traditional music instruments in association with the World Irish Music Centre in the University of Limerick.

The Celtic Studies Programme covers themes in Irish History, Folklore and the Irish Language and colours in the background to our music, song and dance. A welcome addition to this year’s programme is Focal ar Fhocal an introduction to Conversational Irish which will run from 22nd to 26th May. A talk by eminent Musicologist, John O’Regan on the various trends in traditional music over the last half century, Storytelling Sessions with Eddie Lenihan—Ireland's foremost Seanchaí, Exhibitions on Traditional Music and Musicians, Lectures, Discussions, Presentations of Archive Material and a Guided Walking Tour of Ennis bring a value added element to this feast of traditional entertainment that is rarely found at like festivals.

Dancers always have a special interest in Fleadh Nua. Maybe it is because they are so well catered for that they return to Ennis in their droves every year. Whether you are a novice or a master, there are plenty of opportunities "to rise sparks from the floor" at the Fleadh. The Tulla Céilí Band will play at the opening Céilí on 25th May in the Old Ground Hotel. Attention switches to Cois na hAbhna on 26th May when the Abbey Céilí Band provide the music.

Cois na hAbhna plays host to the world famous Kilfenora Céilí Band on 27th May while the ever popular Star of Munster Céilí Band will put dancers through their paces at the Temple Gate Hotel on the same night. On 28th May Fleadh Nua welcomes the Glenside Céilí Band who will surely raise the rafters at Cois na hAbhna. The Farewell Session at the Queen's Hotel has proved unmissable for Fleadh stalwarts over the years and will take place on 29th May with music provided by the Star of Munster Céilí Band. If you have any energy left after all that, the Four Courts Céilí Band will be doing their utmost to drain the last ounce of it from your feet later that evening at Cois na hAbhna.
Not every event is held indoors - a comprehensive programme of Outdoor Entertainment includes An Tóstal Sráide / National Cultural Parade, Street Entertainment and a Seisiún Mór after the parade.

Fleadh Nua has something for everyone. So even if you don't know the difference between a reel and a jig, the Caledonian and the Connemara don't worry. You can enjoy the very best of Traditional Music, Song and Dance in a relaxed, informal atmosphere at any of the Singers' Club, Club Fleadh Nua, CD Launches or the Pub Music Trail which are held during the Festival.

And that is only the "organised" part of the Fleadh. A myriad of impromptu sessions both indoors and out ensures that the narrow streets of Ennis resound with Traditional Music, Song and Dance throughout the Festival.

County Clare is nationally and internationally recognised as the heartland of Irish Traditional Music Song and Dance. Ennis has been the natural home for Fleadh Nua since 1973. So come and join us - níl fleadh níos fearr!!!


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